Dealing With One Of The World’s Most Stubborn Pests: Bed Bugs

You may not know it but bed bugs are found almost everywhere. They can be introduced to a location by hitching a ride on animals and people and hiding in the folds of clothes and even in buttonholes. Their small size means you won’t notice them till they bite.

Like mosquitoes, bed bugs suck the blood of humans and animals. Telltale signs of bites include skin rashes and itching. Since the two symptoms can be caused by a number of other reasons, identifying a bed bug’s bite isn’t always easy. However, there can be signs particularly in the pattern of the bites which are typically in straight rows. You normally won’t see them biting you due to a numbing agent they secret and will notice the bites only much after the act.

Are they dangerous?

They aren’t dangerous per se and are more a nuisance but scratching the bites can introduce secondary infections. More than anything, they’re frustrating because who wants to go through life constantly at risk of an annoying itch?

Who’s at risk of an infestation?

Bed bugs are most common in places that see a lot of human activity like hotels, hostels and apartments. As people come and go, they may inadvertently transport the bugs which set up home. If not checked, they can grow to become a big nuisance and maybe even a health hazard especially for people prone to suffering allergies.

Signs of a presence

Check yourself and your luggage following a trip. Examine the place you check into. You may not be able to find well-hidden bugs but you may notice signs of their presence. Keep an eye out for fecal spots which are dark and occur in patches. They smear like fresh blood when wet so if you find similar spots you can check to see if it’s fecal matter by wiping it with a wet cloth. The insects also moult so look for exoskeletons.

A more obvious sign of the presence of these critters is, of course, itching and bite marks. However, before assuming it’s indeed bed bugs that are the cause, rule out bites by other insects, allergies, dry skin and other more common reasons. Identifying insect bites is difficult, even for doctors, because many appear similar.

What precautions can you take?

Like other pests, bed bugs take time to deal with. If you suspect you may have brought some home following a trip, wash and dry articles on the highest heat setting. Vacuum your vehicle as well and throw the contents in a plastic bag which should then be sealed.

If you suspect there are bed bugs at home, wash bed linen and upholstery in hot water, vacuum the rooms and go over furniture, carpets, corners and everything you can reach. The idea is to get as many of the bugs as you can. Females lay one to 12 eggs every day and if the conditions are right – temperature, humidity, availability of food etc. – you can expect an infestation in a very short time.

It’s important to prevent bed bugs from becoming a problem. Like medical illnesses, prevention is better than cure and much less of a hassle. If the issue is too much to handle or you’d rather not get involved, hire pest exterminators with a good reputation for tackling bed bug infestations.

Donna J. Seymour